096 – Controlling the LHC Beam

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In this fourth (and for the time being, last) episode in the series on physics at CERN we look at the LHC from the perspective of the beam producers, and more specifically, from the perspective of the control system for the LHC. To this end, we first talk to Vito Baggiolini, a software engineer in the controls group, and then we talk to Felix Ehm, a technical engineer for the beam control system. In the episode we recap what the LHC does and how it does it (you may want to re-listen to Episode 30 on the LHC), discuss the hardware elements used for beam control, some of the safety and security systems, as well as about the software aspects of the system.

I would like to thank Chris Mann from Mannmade Productions for letting me use the soundtrack of his LHC video in this episode.

After recording the episode, Vito noticed a couple of errata in the conversation:

  • 03:35 LEP was shutdown at the end of 2000, not in 2003
  • 04:45 CLIC study: the CLIC study facility at CERN is small (150m), only a real linear collider will be 30 km or longer
  • 07:30 There are not 5 but 6 LHC experiments (Atlas, CMS, Alice, LHCb, TOTEM, LHCf)
  • 28:53 Beam dump material is graphite framed in concrete, there is no copper.
  • 30:00 Loosing the beam in an uncontrolled manner would not “destroy all our precious magnets”, but it could destroy a few magnets and other precious equipment.
  • 53:12 Real-time feedback is given only to corrector magnets, not all. The beam is instable (like a helicopter) only during the ramp.
  • 56:00 In 2011 we have had magnet quenches, but only at low energy levels, not at high energy.
  • 56:50 UFOs = Unidentified Falling (not Flying) Objects
  • 59:30 You have to take a key to show if your inside or outside the tunnel (not the inside or outside the beam)

And, as usual, here are some links:

14 Responses to 096 – Controlling the LHC Beam

  1. Two links that might be interesting to people who want to know what’s happening at LHC: You can watch the official console at and listen to what’s happening live at

  2. MaNo says:

    cool, thanks!

  3. Axel says:

    Real nice episode, I’ve learned a lot of interesting things! Any chances that Omega Tau might become a video podcast for more “visual” episodes like this one? Anyway, keep up the very good work!

  4. MaNo says:

    omega tau will only become video (or video-supplemented) if someone pays me decent money for doing it. It just way too much work, I don’t have the time!


  5. Martin says:

    The whole recent CERN series has been great. But I especially liked this episode, digging into the guts of how these fantastic state-of-the-art systems really work and are controlled. Amazing stuff. Thanks!

  6. MaNo says:

    Thanks. This one was my favourite as well :-)


  7. iota says:

    Wieder eine tolle Folge mit einem extrem motivierten Gesprächspartner und wirklich guter Verständlichkeit auch für “interessierte Laien”!
    Danke immer wieder für die tolle Arbeit!
    Grüße Jochen

  8. Bryan says:

    Excellent! Very technical, just how I like it.

  9. Great episode! And how fascinating to be so “up to date” with this extraordinary techniques (today, 4. July…) exciting to follow the “higgs-timeline” on twitter! Even if I understand just a tiny little fraction of this complex stuff, it is great fun to get a impression of today`s great explorations!

  10. Pingback: Higgs Boson « Healthcare Data Solutions

  11. MaNo says:

    Agree. If I had known the Higgs was imminent, we might have timed the episodes better :-)


  12. petpost says:

    Wieder eine tolle Folge mit einem extrem motivierten Gesprächspartner und wirklich guter Verständlichkeit auch für “interessierte

  13. MaNo says:

    Da fehlt was, oder :-) ? Aber schön dass es Dir gefällt, soviel wird klar :-)


  14. Pingback: omega tau » 102 – Discovering the Higgs

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